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A long awaited topic is finally here; managing your child's screen time.
Let's face it, in today's world, screens are unavoidable for our kids. They've become such a big part of their lives, from homework to socializing and entertainment. But, there are many dangers to excessive screen time, from health issues to addiction and social withdrawal. It’s also impractical to prohibit them from accessing technology.
Many parents fall completely on one side of the equation. Either they’ll let their kids be glued to the computer for hours or they’ll ban it altogether. But neither option maximizes the potential of technology.
My kids used to spend way too much time on their devices, especially during COVID. But now, they’re using their tech productively, in a way that actually improves their lives. I’ve compiled my approach into three main tactics that worked like a charm. Let’s get into the deep dive.
Reframe your mindset
First, it’s important for parents to reset their beliefs about technology. Many believe it's an absolute necessity, while others think it's an instant pathway to addiction. But, a smart phone or tablet isn’t good or bad.
It is what you make of it.
There are plenty of negative consequences, especially to the eyes and brain. But there are also tons of positive utility, like learning new things or reading digital books. These limiting beliefs can prevent us from expanding our perspectives into new ideas. So before we get into the tips, it’s important to keep this at the top of your mind.
Screens are a symptom, not a disease
Screen time isn't the root of all evil—it's a symptom!
When your kiddos can't get enough of their devices, it’s likely a sign that they need exciting real-world activities. When they’re young, say 3-6, they don’t have a tablet to keep them company. So, they’ll play with toys, have play-dates, or spend time outdoors.
As they get older, they become harder to entertain with stuffed animals and Lego sets. Parents also tend to get much busier in the pre-teen years. Naturally, we find a temporary solution; giving them an iPad or phone to cure their boredom. But, after building such a strong relationship with their tech, it can be hard to bring them back into the real world.
So, if you have a pre-teen that’s spending too much time on screens, the solution is simple.
You need to re-introduce physical activities that can substitute for their digital counterparts.
Is your tween spending too much time on Instagram? Set up a play-date with their friends.
Too much time playing video games? Take them to a park or play a board game together.
I know it’s much easier to give them a computer and call it a day. But, if we’re not willing to give them amusing activities, we can’t complain when they gravitate back to trusty old smart phones.
Show Them the Bright Side
Step #1 should dramatically reduce their screen time. Yet, you can’t always be driving them to play-dates or the park. I mentioned earlier that the internet has a ton of positive uses. They can start their own business, access educational resources, or even read an e-book. But, how do you get them to the right places?
Further - how do you make starting a business more entertaining than Bubble Guppies? There’s a lot to unpack here.
In fact, this step could be a newsletter itself. But, the simplest solution is to spend productive screen time together.
Take a few minutes each day and browse Etsy shops, marveling at all the cool designs. Show them how easy it is to open their own shop using services like print-on-demand and Canva. Or, watch an online course together and complete the homework in tandem. If that doesn’t work, try another activity, like e-books and educational games! Eventually, they’ll find a productive digital hobby that aligns with their interests.
Lead By Example
If we want our kids to strike a balance with screens, we've got to do the same. None of these tips will work if your kids constantly witness you scrolling on Facebook. I know how tough it is to leave the phone in the bedroom, afraid to miss an important phone call or email.
But, we can’t tell our kids to manage their screen time if we can’t manage ours. And actions always speak louder than words. So, at dinner time, stow your phone away in the bedroom. Next time you’re at the park? Leave your phones in your pocket and go make some memories playing tag or hosting a picnic. I promise you that they'll pick up on the healthy habits.
Encourage, don’t enforce.
Most importantly, it’s crucial to introduce these ideas naturally, not like a strict rulebook. No one likes being forced, so don’t mandate them to start a business or go to the park. By doing so, you’ll alienate activities they might otherwise enjoy.
If they’re not feeling like the park today, be flexible and offer a different activity. If they want to stay at home, let them be for now and try again next time. This is a slow process that is nurtured over time. Take it too fast and you'll risk losing them further to technology. Even worse, you’ll negatively impact your relationship.
Whatever you do, never use punishment—it's a big no-no. We want our kids to feel empowered and motivated, not resentful. Technology can be a miraculous creative outlet for your kids. It also can be a fast track to addiction and anxiety.
These 5 tips have worked for me, and I know they’ll work for you. Last week, we asked you: what are your family’s screen time policies?
Here are three of the best responses:
“In our household, we take a pretty strict approach to technology. We believe in setting clear boundaries to ensure our kids' well-being. They have a limited screen time of one hour per day during weekdays, and on weekends, they get a bit more, maybe two hours tops. It might seem tough, but we've noticed that this helps them stay focused on schoolwork and engage in other activities” - Amy
“Digital use is something we negotiate in our family. Our kids earn screen time by doing their chores and completing homework. It's a win-win because they get to enjoy their favorite games and shows while learning the value of responsibility. Some days they might have more screen time, while other days they might prefer outdoor play or reading books. We're all about adapting and finding what works best for each day!” -James
‘Flexibility is key in our family when it comes to screen time. We don't have strict rules, but we do have open conversations about it. Our kids know that they can use their devices for entertainment and socializing, but we also encourage them to set their own limits. They've surprised us by deciding to use screens responsibly, often opting for physical activities or helping out with household chores without us asking! It's all about trust and letting them make some decisions for themselves.” -Rina
What’s your take - I’m all ears! (leave a comment below)